Sunday, July 09, 2006

....and now, the rumors behind the news!


The Tipsy McStagger Administration couldn't continue to pull the wool over the eyes of the sheeple without the complicity of the Corporate Controlled Conservative Press (CCCP). I would submit that there are two major factors contributing to the gross failure of the media to fulfill the role and exercise the privileges granted the press by the First Amendment.

The first factor is the corporate nature of news-gathering organizations. The officers of a corporation are obliged by law to maximize return on shareholder investment. This is an actual duty, imposed by law, called fiduciary responsibility. Example: "Will attacking war profiteers cause high-dollar corporate advertisers to shun the Sunday Morning Mouse Circus?" Well, if it's going to cut into our profits, we can't do it, because our stockholders would "suffer" (and I use the term advisedly) due to the loss of that revenue. And thus does the CCCP suppress news unfavorable to its corporte advertising base. They are just "following orders."

There was a time when the "Fairness Doctrine" required broadcast licensees to present controversial issues of public importance, and to present such issues in an honest, equal and balanced manner. This rule (which was frequently mis-characterized as the "Equal Time" rule) simply required broadcast licensees to present both sides of controversial issues. So, for example, when CBS broadcast Edward R. Murrow's groundbreaking documentary "Harvest of Shame", they could justify that decision by citing compliance with the Fairness Doctrine.

Well, you can kiss that shit goodbye.

The Fairness Doctrine and the other rules which allowed it to be enforced were repealed during the Reagan Administration. It's easy to see that Rush Limbaugh, to name one example, would be unable to spew his lies and vitriol if the stations carrying his show were required to give an opportunity for the presentation of opposing points of view. Once unfettered by any legal obligation to serve the public interest, broadcasters immediately strapped on the knee-pads and demonstrated their fealty to those who secured their place in line at the public teat of the broadcast spectrum. You may know them as the Republican Party.

The second factor which has brought shame and disrepute to the "profession" of journalism is the lack of any sort of credential assuring the news consumer that the person delivering the information has the slightest clue regarding journalistic standards, ethics, etc. Consider that, on the average large market TV newscast, the sports "reporter" is likely to be an ex-professional jock, with demonstrated experience in the sphere of professional sports. The weathergirl probably has earned the Seal of Approval of the American Meteorological Society, having shown some degree of competence in the science of weather. But what about the well-goomed hairdos who actually present the hard news? No qualifications required, other than a certain telegenic quality and the ability to adopt a tone somewhat in keeping with the seriousness (or not) of the material they are reading from the TelePrompTer.

Now, I recognize that any "licensing" scheme for journalists puts us on a slippery slope leading toward government regulation of reporters, and believe me, I ain't about to go there. What I envision is an independent accreditation process, perhaps through the Society of Professional Journalists (nee SDX). If you can demonstrate sufficient experience, perhaps pass a test on standards and ethics, you could use the title "Certified Professional Journalist" in your byline. Documented failures to abide by said standards could result in the loss of the right to use that title. Some reporters might not qualify. That wouldn't keep them from bloviating on, oh, let's use Faux News for an example. They just couldn't claim to be professional journalists. News consumers would thus know that their source of "news" is operating outside the bounds of journalistic standards. Hey, if you choose to buy your food in dented cans from the half-price cart, that's your business. But you're entitled to see the dents, right?

Thoughts? Ideas? Criticisms?

(NB: I have my own ideas about whether journalism is technically a "profession." (I think not.) But that's a discussion for another post....)

5 Comments:

  • :) good luck

    By Blogger afp763389, at 9:34 AM  

  • I would have thought that a degree in journalism from an accredited university would have taken care of some of this but, given the sorry state of things in the CCCP these days, I guess not.

    By Blogger Kevin Wolf, at 12:02 PM  

  • Great pice and three shout-outs for:

    (1)C.C.C.P. I hadn't seen that one before-if original, an extra s/o; (2)the Firesign reference; and (3)the article itself.

    Heard last week on AirAm that 6-count'em- corporations control 90% of the media.

    By Blogger Hillbilly Dem, at 12:52 PM  

  • I can't imagine that Fairness Doctrine in use today. On paper, it sounds like it was a noble idea. But, speaking as a rational human being, I'd hate to have to read an anti-global warming story for every global warming story. (99.9% of scientists agree that the Earth is warming. Would we have to give free press to the conservative .1% that disagree?) Or, I'd hate to read a creationism take posted just after every new discovery relevant to evolution.

    It's all so confusing... The conservatives would have you believe that there is a huge media bias in the press. The left insists the bias is exactly the other way around.

    Maybe all papers should simply publish two editions -- one "red" and one "blue." They could editorialize on EVERYTHING -- even the weather. The Lib/Blue edition would say, "Here comes Hurricane XYZ, no doubt the latest product of our rampant industrial pollution." The Con/Red edition would say, "Here comes Hurricane XYZ, no doubt the result of Bill Clinton's failed policies." (Ever notice how EVERYTHING seems to be Clinton's fault?)

    I'm surprised journalists have no professional certification process, now that you mention it. Why should lawyers and CPAs get all the extra initials, after all. CPJ sounds good. I'm all for it.

    By Blogger Blowing Shit Up With Gas, at 12:16 PM  

  • The fairness doctrine, BSUWG, applied only to TV and radio stations as they use the airwaves which belong - I know it is hard to believe - to the public. Newspapers, which are private enterprises, can print any damn thing they want.

    I'm afraid that, like the old Comics Code Authority stamp, jounalist certification would lead only to institutional caution and narrower fields of inquiry.

    As long as the elementary commercial concerns of newspapers, those which tie the interests of the editorial board to those of the local Chamber of Commerce, prevail then no increase in the quality of reporting will do any good.

    But be of good cheer, newspapers as we know them are fucking doomed, to be followed shortly after by TV networks.

    By Blogger Will Divide, at 8:19 AM  

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